Denying In-State Tuition For DACA Students: AZ Follow-Up

In a previous post I discussed the predicament of DACA college students in Arizona. In 2006, Proposition 300 passed with the approval of a substantial 71.4 percent of the voters. Its goal was unequivocal: the denial of in-state tuition in Arizona public community colleges and universities to DACA students. As the State’s Attorney General explained it, Proposition 300 requires the

verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

In 2015, DACA students in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

However, Arizona’s State Attorney General appealed the decision and this month an appeals court ruled that the state had the right to enforce Proposition 300, thus depriving DACA students of access to in-state tuition. This court decision, in turn, was appealed and the Arizona Board of Regents voted to allow in-state tuition to remain in effect while the appeal is resolved. It was an encouraging development.

But a series of recent events augur rough times ahead for DACA students in Arizona and elsewhere in the US. The attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia as well as the Governor of Idaho asked the Trump administration to “phase out” the DACA program. Speaking for the group, arch-conservative Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the DACA program

confers lawful presence and work permits for nearly one million unlawfully present aliens in the U.S.

He added the following:

[T]he multi-state coalition that made the request . . . [is] prepared to pull a lawsuit challenging the deferred action program currently pending in district courts if the program is ended by Sept. 5. If not, he said the suit would expand to include DACA and remaining expanded DACA permits.

Recently members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss the DACA program. Luis V. Gutierrez, the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 4th congressional district, was at the meeting and evaluates its outcome as follows:

Secretary Kelly said . . . that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence. . . I fear for anybody currently with DACA.

Gutierrez’s closing comments are sobering:

Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA . . . who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months. Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.

I prefer to close my posts on a hopeful note. I can’t do it today. Congressman Gutierrez said,

I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation.

I believe that he is right.

Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

On this Independence day it is well to remember yet again a probing and candid speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” given by the formerly enslaved and probably greatest 19th century American, Frederick Douglass, at Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, at the peak of North America slavery (indeed, about 230 years into that era).

 

Frederick_Douglass_c1860s

In this era Black Americans were usually not allowed at 4th of July celebrations in the slaveholding South, apparently because many slaveholders feared that they might get an idea of freedom from such events (as if they did not already have such an idea!). Also, Black residents were often discouraged from attending such festivities in the North.

It is in this very dangerous and hostile national racial climate that the great Douglass–increasingly, a leading intellectual of his day and the first Black American to receive a roll-call vote for US President (later on, at the 1888 Republican national convention!)–was asked by leading citizens of Rochester to give an address at their Fourth of July celebrations. He gave them this stinging indictment of racial oppression:

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

But later adds:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

And then concludes with this:

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,

And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign.
To man his plundered rights again
Restore.

Sadly, our system of racial oppression still persists, even as most white Americans are in denial about its deep and foundational reality. Yet, there remain many people like Frederick Douglass today who still fight to remove this “yoke of tyranny” from us all. May they flourish and prosper. We should remember those now and from the past who fought racism most on this day to celebrate freedom.
Some forty-two years later, in the last speech (“Lessons of the Hour”) he gave before his death—at an AME Church in DC, on January 9th, 1894—Douglass made these comments as he watched southern and border states hurtle toward bloody Jim Crow segregation, the new neo-slavery system:

We claim to be a Christian country and a highly civilized nation, yet, I fearlessly affirm that there is nothing in the history of savages to surpass the blood chilling horrors and fiendish excesses perpetrated against the colored people by the so-called enlightened and Christian people of the South. It is commonly thought that only the lowest and most disgusting birds and beasts, such as buzzards, vultures and hyenas, will gloat over and prey dead bodies, but the Southern mob in its rage feeds its vengeance by shooting, stabbing and burning when their victims are dead. I repeat, and my contention is, that this “Negro problem” formula lays the fault at the door of the Negro, and removes it from the door of the white man, shields the guilty, and blames the innocent. Makes the Negro responsible and not the nation….. Now the real problem is, and ought to be regarded by the American people, a great national problem. It involves the question, whether, after all, with our Declaration of Independence, with our glorious free constitution, whether with our sublime Christianity, there is enough of national virtue in this great nation to solve this problem, in accordance with wisdom and justice.

He concluded thus, his very last words ever spoken in public:

But could I be heard by this great nation, I would call to to mind the sublime and glorious truths with which, at its birth, it saluted a listening world. Its voice then, was as the tramp of an archangel, summoning hoary forms of oppression and time honored tyranny, to judgment. Crowned heads heard it and shrieked. Toiling millions heard it and clapped their hands for joy. It announced the advent of a nation, based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident truths of liberty and equality. Its mission was the redemption of the world from the bondage of ages. Apply these sublime and glorious truths to the situation now before you. Put away your race prejudice. Banish the idea that one class must rule over another. Recognize the fact that the rights of the humblest citizen are as worthy of protection as are those of the highest, and your problem will be solved; and, whatever may be in store for it in the future, whether prosperity, or adversity; whether it shall have foes without, or foes within, whether there shall be peace, or war; based upon the eternal principles of truth, justice and humanity, and with no class having any cause of compliant or grievance, your Republic will stand and flourish forever.

 

Denying In-State Tuition for Arizona’s DACA Students

On December 7, 2006, Proposition 300 passed in Arizona with the approval of 71.4 percent of the voters. According to the state’s Attorney General,

The enacted measure requires verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

From the point of view of an Arizona state representative, the measure was necessary because “illegal” immigration was having catastrophic effects:

Arizona has been overwhelmed with illegal immigration and all the negative things that follow — crime, increased public service costs, especially education, and depression of our wages — and the federal government seems barely capable of doing much. . . . Denying the in-state tuition . . . deters illegal immigrants from coming here.

In 2015, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

Arizona’s Attorney General appealed the decision and this month a federal appeals court ruled that

federal immigration law allows each state to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients [and] Arizona law [i.e., Proposition 300] bars in-state tuition for anyone who doesn’t have a legal status.

The consequences for the education of Arizona’s DACA youth are substantial. For example, at the Maricopa Community Colleges that operate in the larger Phoenix area, the cost per credit hour is $86 for Arizona residents and $241 for non-residents. At Arizona State University the current undergraduate basic tuition is $10,792 for residents and $27,372 for non-residents.

Some students intend to persist. Belen Sisa a junior at Arizona State University who came from Argentina when she was six-years old, said “I can’t let this stop me. I’m so close to give up now.” Oscar Hernandez was brought from Mexico when he was 9-years old and has lived in Arizona ever since. He has one year left to get his degree but it may take him three years to finish if he has to pay out-of-state tuition but said that “he is determined to finish.” Their resolve is admirable, because they will unjustly confront new obstacles in the pursuit of their education.

Karina Ruiz, board president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that advocates for undocumented young children brought to the U.S. as children, criticized the state for taking away in-state tuition from DACA recipients. “This is all hate,” Ruiz said.

There is nothing else. There is no reason for the state to be fighting students that want to get educated. This is wrong.

It is difficult to disagree with her. What rational purpose would it serve to deprive the DACA students who have been in Arizona since they were very young of in-state tuition? How just is it? Doesn’t a state benefit from an educated citizenry? How will it discourage undocumented migration?

Arizona has a long history of white racism. In recent times the undocumented have become the target. This is the state where Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,

Oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.

Arpaio is currently on trial for allegedly

defying a federal judge’s orders that barred [him] from enforcing federal immigration law.

I wish I could be optimistic and hope for a quick solution. But with Donald Trump in the White House, racists in Arizona and elsewhere will find fertile ground for their odious plans.

Racism and Sexism Online and OffLine

Dylann Roof discussed his motivations for killing nine in a Black Church in Charleston, North Carolina. He answered the FBI investigator’s question by stating: “It’s pretty much the internet…. All the information is there for you.” His statement refers to a larger trend of online hate speech being directed towards offline violence. This also occurred when Arnita Saarkesian cancelled an event because someone emailed her, saying that they would commit a mass murder if she spoke at Utah State University. Yet the police there felt there was no risk to students. This assumption changed when the posting involved a black man and police in Ferguson. The Supreme Court ruled that online threats are not necessarily illegal when deciding a case where a husband wrote he would like to see his wife’s “head on a stick” on Facebook. Most recently, as hate-type violence rises in the offline world, there are critical questions we must ask about the connection between online communities and offline violence. Trolling and trolls are a type of collective behavior that satisfies the emotional desires of racists or sexists.

The common assumption that internet activity is “fake” is also not helpful or an accurate analysis of the internet. According to Pew Research Center, 68% of adults are Facebook users. While on Facebook, a person can tag a friend in a picture, post on a person’s wall for their birthday, consider adopting a pet, donate to a charity, or let someone know you are graduating. This time can be filled with meaningful details that are shared within social networks; it can involve scanning news sites as I do on Twitter, or catching up with your favorite sports teams. The internet provides a different element than radio or television does: social interaction. This interaction can be positive or can be negative. It is the intention behind actions that often is not discussed when trolling is covered by media outlets, bloggers, and even academics. I do not deny that, to a degree, anonymity gives commenters a sense of freedom, which can result in certain behaviors.

Specifically, the belief that anonymity and computers change behaviors has been held by academics as well as online news media. The suggestion often goes “Don’t Read the Comments.” In many ways, this assumes that online behavior is radically different than offline behavior. Without face to face confrontation, it’s assumed that behavior is more uncivil. It is argued that in situations of anonymity on the internet, instead of breaking down boundaries, interaction is based on an “us versus them” expectation. This can also be thought of as “me” versus “them” in which the perception of users is that they are part of a social group. This is a common explanation for why the comments sections are racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-Semitic, which is theorized by Tom Postmes, Russell Spears and Martin Lea in their article “Breaching or Building Social Boundaries? SIDE-Effects of Computer-Mediated Communication.” In short, many users go from perceiving the interaction as being based on “me and you” to being “us versus them.” It is the “them” that is a placeholder for a man’s girlfriend, a black woman (see Southern Poverty Law Center’s reports from 2016 and 2017) or a feminist. This behavior can also be done by marginalized individuals, such as Hotep culture (See “Hotep Explained” by Damon Young). I do not deny that, to some degree, technology can influence behavior, but there is a stronger connection to offline reality. This behavior can be analyzed as more purposeful and fostered by offline language, political setting, structures, and institutions.

Trolling is a contested concept; just read the various definitions in the Urban dictionary. The Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT) provides a survey in which a person can indicate identification with trolling culture. Trolling often relies on attacking someone, usually based on their physical identity or social identification–e.g., race, gender, or sexual orientation. The normalization of trolling assumes that categorization is natural. Whether or not social differentiation is “natural,” the larger point is what we do with categorization. This historically has legitimated slavery, segregation, and even now legitimizes the gender pay gap.

The belief that racist, sexist, or homophobic language is done because individuals are online ignores the offline reality of these behaviors. This could also be reduced to “locker room talk” although this language occurs in many settings. This behavior in fact takes place because of social cues or who is in the room, i.e. men only. Thus, this language is tolerated, even expected, and excused in a variety of places and spaces. Therefore, the language used in the comment section of media reports is learned and encouraged as being “boys will be boys” or other euphemisms that protect the privileged. These euphemisms often legitimize rape culture and racist jokes. Those who teach this discriminatory behavior toward “others” use a space that is free from people of color to teach racism, free from women to teach sexism, free from others who are “out” to teach homophobia.

Some of this racist action is defined as backstage racism by Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin in their book Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage. The idea that we whites act differently in certain spaces is not especially radical, as how you act at work and with a group of friends on a Saturday night is usually understood as different. It does not mean we are “less authentic” at work or “more authentic” with our friends. This also means that those who mean to foster racist sentiments that whites are superior, or men are superior, or both simultaneously, can create communities. Rather than seeing racism as part of a mental illness, or as someone being irrational, there is a clear intention and goal in people engaging in most such racist behavior. This also in part illustrates that there is not a clear transition from the “me and you” to the “us and them” behavior. Many online users perceive themselves as part of an “us,” e.g. white and male, and the “them” as substantially less than them in social status. At times this is heightened when group members that are historically oppressed reach a point of higher status, or if those in the dominant group fear diversity. This emotional response is also associated with voting for Trump as Trump voters often “fear racial diversity.”

This emotional satisfaction has been tested by computer-mediated studies. In a study authored by Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell and Delroy L. Paulhus called “Trolls just want to have fun,” they found sadistic behaviors were associated with trolling. Thus, many trolls want to inflict pain, which is more than what is often included in articles about trolls. This should not be surprising as emotional defenses of racism are part of the dominant white racial frame theorized by Joe Feagin. Some argue that this behavior is maintained by certain internet platforms, such as Reddit, or by video games that have an “inherent” culture that includes sexism and racism. That is where the interjection that there is nothing “inherent” or “natural” about racism or sexism comes in. They are aggressively taught from a young age and can be unlearned (with great effort). If it is not clear by now, this also illustrates that there is a choice made in trolling, and all forms of harassment online and offline.

The “locker room talk,” which has been criticized by athletes, includes bragging about “moving on her like a bitch.” Thus, locker room talk is an extension of the larger rape culture and relies on men bragging about their actions. Sure, in many situations this could be bragging without any action, but given the consequences of this type of behavior in the case of Roof and Jeremy Joseph Christian, the most recent suspect in a hate crime or act of terrorism, this should be taken seriously. Locker room talk illustrates that the performance of masculinity is important in collective spaces, as is the practice of white supremacy. Such beliefs are part of a practice that is reaffirmed by others in communities. It’s important to recognize that key element of trolling as trolls often are encouraged by very powerful members of the white elite. Some elite white men encourage trolling of marginalized people, which is committed by their followers, such as in Gamergate. The negative behavior of specific white individuals, many being white Christians, is often removed from US culture, institutions, and society, thereby reducing it to an individual’s actions. Thus, white groups online, who are often white males, are mostly referred to as trolls, not “mobs”. Either people frame them as acting that way because of the anonymity allowed on the Internet or it is just “locker room talk.” These two frames leave whites to be innocent or at least do not recognize that the behavior is learned, happens offline, and is part of systemic white racism.

Gamergate is an example in which masses of men were attacking a few outspoken women like Zoe Quinn. Although Quinn characterizes it as mob behavior, others do not. In fact, of the 258 references on Wikipedia for Gamergate, only one website explicitly uses mob in its headlines. Only two people are quoted referring to the harassment in Gamergate as mob behavior, Quinn the target of the harassment, and Anders Sandberg, a University of Oxford research fellow. Even those critical of trolls such as Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson may describe them as a swarm, but still do not describe them as a mob. Pearson states that one troll “invited his unmerry men to join in the fun.”

Additionally, a somewhat lighthearted, or only modestly critical, framing of internet trolls is not isolated to Pearson, but part of the racial grammar of the internet. This racial grammar implicitly teaches children and adults negative racial stereotypes about people of color, while allowing whites as a group to be virtuous and innocence.

Trolling is indeed mob-like behavior, especially when encouraged by a leader online. The behavior is filling some psychological desire to inflict pain. Why else would individuals engage it for hours? Like hate groups and activist groups, the distinction lies in understanding if they aim to be constructive or destructive. This performance of toxic masculinity and whiteness online through online discussions or trolling is part of an emotional satisfaction that users use to perpetuate racist and sexist systems. The intent behind much trolling is part of a larger system of racism and sexism. It is an integral part of offline structures, institutions, and places; and this reality negates the naïve argument that you need to either reach out to a troll to “reform them” or that they would not be racist or sexist offline. The reform should come in organizations and communities with the recognition that trolling is verbal violence which can inspire physical violence. This important general point is articulated by terrorism expert Ehud Sprinzak in his book Brother against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination. We need to ask ourselves if this trolling racist/sexist language does not benefit democratic dialogue and results in violence, why should it be tolerated in a democratic society?

Juneteenth: Why Celebrate?

“By putting on their very best clothes, the black people were signaling they were free,” historian Jackie Jones relates. “It enraged white people. They hated to see black people dressed up because it turned their world upside down.” Sartorial display is woven into resistance and celebrations of the African American holiday Juneteenth.

Emancipation Day, Austin, Texas, 1900 (from Wikipedia)

 

Today marks the anniversary of the original  Juneteenth, a celebration marking the end of slavery. What began as a regional celebration in Galveston, Texas has grown to a national commemoration that people celebrate in a variety of ways. NPR’s Code Switch has been collecting stories of how people celebrate at the hashtag #WouldntBeJuneteenthWithout, but I there is a pall over the usual celebratory mood of this Juneteenth by recent events in Seattle, where Charleena Lyles was killed by police after she called them to report a burglary, and in Minnesota, where the police officer on trial for killing Philando Castile, was acquitted on all charges.

Indeed, after the ongoing police-murder of Black people, the celebration of Juneteenth and the struggle behind it, take on a renewed sense of urgency and poignancy. Why celebrate it at all? It wasn’t always a widely recognized holiday, and it was a struggle to get it recognized.

The Struggle to Make Juneteenth a State Holiday

Juneteenth hasn’t always been recognized as a holiday, and in the family I came from it was often scoffed at (lots of derision about the name of the holiday).  So the fact that Juneteenth is now an official state holiday in Texas and many other communities across the US, is significant and is only possible because of a political struggle waged by one Houston Democratic legislator, (former) state representative Al Edwards.  It seems impossible now to mention a black, Democratic state representative and not call to mind, Rep. Clementa Pinckney, gunned down while leading that Wednesday night service in Charleston.

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Edwards was born in Houston in 1937, the sixth of sixteen children, and was first elected as a state representative in 1978 from Houston’s District 146, the area known as Alief. A year later, in 1979, Edwards authored and sponsored House Bill 1016, making June 19th (“Juneteenth”) a paid state holiday in Texas.

Everyone, it seemed, opposed the idea. In a recent interview about this bill, attorney Doug McLeod, a conservative Democratic representative from Galveston at the time said of Edwards, “He really had an uphill battle. He had opposition from the left and the right.” Mostly white conservative Democratic majority viewed the bill as a hard sell to their constituents and many of Edwards’ 14 fellow black legislators saw it as a diversion from securing a holiday for Martin Luther King.

House Bill 1016 appeared to be headed nowhere when Edwards, a Democrat who was new to the legislature, originally filed it. Eventually, he got McLeod to sign on to the bill and Bill Clayton, then speaker of the Texas legislature.

Then-Gov. Bill Clements, a Republican, declined to endorse the Juneteenth bill, but he agreed to sign it if passed. Through a series of negotiations and brokered deals over votes, Rep. Edwards eventually prevailed and got the bill through the legislature.  When the bill passed, white conservative opponents urged the governor not to sign the bill, but Clements kept his word and signed the bill on the Texas State Capitol steps. This prompted other states to follow suit. Now 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way or another.

History and Struggle Behind Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, but people remained enslaved within the state of Texas.

This happened for two reasons.

First, Texas slave owners refused to release the people they were holding as slaves.  They basically just wouldn’t acknowledge that the Emancipation Proclamation or Lee’s surrender had happened or had any bearing on them (cf. “States Rights,”  see also Texas is a Whole Other Country).

Second, slave owners from neighboring states in the south looked on Texas as a haven for slavery, so they poured into Texas with an estimated 125,000-150,000* enslaved people  from surrounding Confederate states (*historians debate the precise number).

In a recent interview, Jackie Jones,a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin.”The idea was Texas was so vast that the federal government would never be able to conquer it all. There is this view that if they want to hold onto their slaves, the best thing to do is get out of the South and go to Texas.”

This ended on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and again declared the end of the Civil War, with General Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 people still in bondage in Texas.

Today, some 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way. This would not have been possible without the vision of Rep. Al Edwards and the struggle to make it a reality.

In times like these, what’s to celebrate?

With the official, legal end of chattel slavery — and the enforcement of that decree in Texas — there was much to celebrate in 1865. It was no longer legal for human beings to be sold on auction blocks as they had been. And, to be clear, the US didn’t just tolerate slavery as an economic system, it expanded and prospered on it.  The overturning of this dehumanizing system was a momentous victory for a multi-racial group of abolitionists who waged a decades long campaign to end slavery.

Reconstruction followed, creating new opportunities for African Americans who owned and profited from their own land and began to participate in local politics.

Most Americans remain confused about the period of Reconstruction, and many still subscribe toA false story of Reconstruction disseminated in popular culture through things like the film Birth of a Nation.  Although historians including Columbia University’s Eric Foner have shown the extraordinary political, economic, and legal gains of Reconstruction, as Gregory P. Downs notes at TPM.

One historian, C. Vann Woodward, has called the period of “the forgotten alternatives.” During the period between 1870 and 1900, there was some racial integration in housing and privately-owned facilities. Black people could travel on public transportation, vote and get elected, get jobs, including on police forces, and enjoy many public facilities.

But. the gains of Reconstruction were short-lived.

This “alternative” approach to race during Reconstruction ended when what Woodward calls the “strange career” of Jim Crow segregation, began — first by whites in the North, and expanded with a vengeance by Southern whites. Within thirty years of emancipation, laws were instituted that stripped African Americans of their rights, making celebrations like Juneteenth a distant memory. A prison-labor paradigm developed. White jail owners profited from the hard labor of their black inmates who were incarcerated for petty crimes like vagrancy, which carried long sentences. White landowners replaced chattel slavery with a deceptive practice called debt peonage, a new form of bondage continued for many blacks for decades. It wasn’t until 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Circular No. 3591 which strengthened the Anti-Peonage Law of 1867, making it a criminal offense.  Roosevelt launched a federal investigation, prosecuted guilty whites and effectively ended peonage in 1942.

So, why celebrate Juneteenth if white supremacy re-emerged with such a bloody return thirty short years later? Because celebration, commemoration and community are how we gain strength for the larger struggle.

Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name land co-executive producer of the documentary film by the same name, said this about Juneteenth:

“It’s important not to skip over the first part of true freedom. Public education as we know it today and the first property rights for women were instituted by African-American elected officials.”

Even as there is terrible news of continued police killing of Black people, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on other times, other struggles and other victories on this anniversary of Juneteenth.

 

 

 

Imposed Identities: Perils of Racial-Ethnic Identifiability

In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Tatum describes racial identity development as an ongoing, continuous process comparable to climbing a spiral staircase. Building on the theory of William Cross, she chronicles the journey arising from encountering the beliefs of a dominant white culture, recognizing one’s own devalued position, exploring the multiple facets of one’s own identity, and emerging to affirm a positive self-identity and support diverse others in their exploration. Intersectionality complicates the picture even further as the multiple dimensions of social identity that include race, gender, and sexual orientation among others combine to create what Patricia Hill Collins calls multiple jeopardies or interlocking systems of oppression.

As a biracial individual with a strong physical resemblance to my father who immigrated from Mainland China and much lesser resemblance to my German-American mother, I have repeatedly encountered the question: “Where are you from?” and when I answer, “New York,” the questioner invariably probes deeper to “Where are you really from?” or “Where are your parents from?” or even sometimes, “Where are your grandparents from?” Even with friends I have known for years, I will be asked questions about the culture, customs, and society of mainland China, although I have not lived or visited there and have only been to Hong Kong when it was a British colony. The irony even extended to my mother, who although white, was sometimes mistaken for being Asian due to her last name and asked what part of China she was from.

Frank Wu identifies the invisibility of Asian Americans in serious public discourse and their high visibility in popular culture that has led to powerful stereotypes such as the notion of the perpetual foreigner. In Yellow: Beyond Black and White, he underscores the way that context operates to create forms of exclusion:

Race is meaningless in the abstract, it acquires it meanings as it operates on its surroundings (p. 22).

The conflation of race with citizenship has led to the common experience among Asian Americans that he so aptly describes:

More than anything else that unites us, everyone with an Asian face who lives in America is afflicted by the perpetual foreigner syndrome. We are figuratively and literally returned to Asia and ejected from America (p. 70).

This outsider syndrome and the stereotypes it perpetuates have consequences. In The Myth of the Model Minority, Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin highlight research revealing that Asian Americans are less than one percent of the boards of Fortune 500 firms and are generally described as technical workers and not executives. Despite extensive qualifications, Asian Americans are only rarely considered for management roles and have frequently chosen scientific professions due to the subjectivity that can accompany non-technical careers in other professions.

Perhaps to Native Americans or African Americans who have suffered enslavement and even efforts at extermination, the persistence of the perpetual foreigner syndrome and other stereotypes that Asian Americans face might seem like less serious concerns. But what is deeply troubling to all Americans of color is what Joe Feagin refers to as “imposed identities.” As he points out, the hundreds of published research papers on racial and ethnic identity are almost always devoted to questions of how individuals seek to define their own racial or ethnic identities personally (typically on check-off lists) instead of how they must deal with the racial or ethnic identities imposed upon them by white employers, police officials, and others with decision-making power in a highly racialized society. Indeed, Derald Wing Sue identifies the nature of contemporary oppression as involving the imposition of identity upon marginalized groups that can take place through acts of overt and covert racial-ethnic exclusion–a range of acts including micro-aggressions, micro-assaults, and micro-invalidations. And exclusionary racial-ethnic stereotyping and other racial-ethnic framing can occur literally in seconds as the results of many Implicit Association Tests have regularly demonstrated.

Even more than ever in the context of a deeply divided society, we are called upon on a daily basis to nurture a community in which interpersonal interactions resist the simplicity of such imposed stereotypes and other framing, bridge the divides of physical identifiability, and assert the underlying connection between our diversity and our common humanity.

Trump’s Impact on Americans of Color

The evidence in his first 100 days — by word, deed, and policy — couldn’t be clearer. Our president does not care for people of color. No? Let’s look at the evidence. It is voluminous.

Immediately after his hallucinatory inauguration, President Donald Trump loudly reaffirmed the need to keep Mexicans out of the United States, and that a “beautiful” wall would be erected quickly to bar Mexico’s riffraff from entering our nation.

And Mexico would pay for the wall, a hot air balloon that has progressively become deflated — going from “Mexico will definitely pay for the wall,” to “well, we will impose taxes that will result in Mexico really paying for the wall,” to “OK, work with me on this —Congress will provide the money to build the wall until Mexico pays for it.” This occurs despite much evidence suggesting that the wall will not stop undocumented immigration.

A week after his inauguration, Trump decreed a travel ban affecting seven Muslim countries, which caught many people off guard and generated massive havoc for travelers worldwide. Soon afterward, a federal judge in Washington state overturned the travel ban. Trump responded with Muslim Ban Lite. He did minor tweaks, excluding Iraq from the travel ban. Shortly, two federal judges — in Hawaii and Maryland — ruled against the second travel ban.

Trump issued an executive order in late January that reaffirmed that the wall would go up and expanded the categories of people who could be deported. The order also called for a significant increase in Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. The edict also mandated an expansion of detention centers, a worrisome measure. Private detention centers, the largest run by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, are sure to make massive profits once the Trump mass deportation machine goes into effect. As of early March, the stock value of CoreCivic had risen by 120 percent since the November election, and that of GEO increased by 80 percent.

This is a significant change from September when private detention centers were at risk of losing their contracts with the government. The Department of Justice had decided to phase out private prisons because of declining prisoner populations and major concerns about safety, security and medical care.

While the massive deportations have not yet materialized, there is intense fear in the immigrant community. That’s because even people without criminal records are potential deportees. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Session have threatened communities and counties with the loss of federal funds if they designate themselves as sanctuary cities, places that provide safe space for unauthorized immigrants — particularly those entities that do not fully cooperate with immigration officials on detainer requests. A federal judge in San Francisco recently ruled against Trump on this as well. Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — are also unsure about their security. Trump has suggested that he likes them and will not put them at risk, but there is plenty of cause in Trump’s record to worry.

Haitian immigrants who were granted special immigration status following the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 also face uncertainty as Trump has yet to renew their status. If he does not do so by July 22, approximately 50,000 Haitians risk deportation. While mass incarceration has disproportionately snared people of color over the past four decades, recent criminal justice reform represented a ray of hope.

But Trump and Sessions now seek to undo these measures. Never mind that the crime rate is about 42 percent below that in 1997. believing that the Department of Justice should not take on that role.

All these efforts will put people of color at greater risk of being racially profiled, disproportionately arrested and sentenced, and having their civil rights violated. People of color and, more broadly, the poor were targeted in Trump’s unsuccessful effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump had an embarrassing setback in not being able to eliminate Obamacare. Yet he is not giving up. He and congressional allies continue to try to dismantle Obamacare piecemeal, now concentrating on cost-share subsidies. He tried to swap $1 of such subsidies for every $1 that Democrats pony up for the border wall.

Despite the problems that plague Obamacare, it continues to be a lifeline for many people who otherwise could not afford health insurance. According to data from the American Community Survey, between 2010 (when Obamacare was signed but before it went into effect) and 2015, 26.7 million more Americans had insurance; the majority of them were white. The number of poor Americans with health care insurance rose by nearly 4.3 million during this five-year period, again with poor whites being the largest group (39 percent) of new beneficiaries. Many of these poor whites rallied behind Trump and helped put him in the White House. Obviously, Trump does not have their best interests in mind.

Trump has surrounded himself with few people of color. His Cabinet is the least diverse since that of Ronald Reagan. Nearly four-fifths of Trump’s 33 Cabinet members are white men. Only four are persons of color (two Asians, one African-American and one Latino) and merely five are women (two of whom are doing double duty as a female and a person of color). Throughout his campaign, Trump used hateful racist rhetoric against people of color. He embraced alt-right and white nationalist groups, and selected a prominent member of these groups —-Stephen Bannon—- to serve as his chief strategist.

It is not surprising that in his first 100 days as president — marked on April 29 — Trump has shown that he is not a friend of people of color. His policies and priorities are intended to firmly put people of color in their place, including through deportations and by not allowing others to enter our country. This is what he envisioned in his quest to “make America great again.” In the process, however, Trump has alienated and insulted so many groups — including people of color, the poor, women, immigrants, Muslims, the GLBTQ community and others — that he has roused the American spirit of protest. He has politicized many good people who realize they cannot accept Trump as normal and that he must be vigorously challenged.

This has the real possibility of making Trump either a one-term president or bringing about his impeachment over the numerous questionable and unethical actions that continue to pile up.

Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and holds the Mark G. Yudof Endowed Chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change. (Note: This article was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News on May 6, 2017.)

John Brown’s Birthday

[This updates a May 9, 2010 post on the birthday of John Brown–an important US revolutionary who died, with his black and white colleagues, fighting for the freedom of enslaved African Americans.]

David Reynolds, the author of an important biography of the white antislavery activist and abolitionist John Brown, did a NYT op-ed piece noting that December 2009 marked the 150 anniversary of his hanging for organizing an insurrection against slavery. He gives historical background and calls for an official pardon for Brown. In October 1859,

With a small band of abolitionists, Brown had seized the federal arsenal there and freed slaves in the area. His plan was to flee with them to nearby mountains and provoke rebellions in the South. But he stalled too long in the arsenal and was captured.

Brown’s group of antislavery band of attackers included whites, including relatives and three Jewish immigrants, and a number of blacks. (Photo: Wikipedia) Radical 225px-John_brown_aboabolitionists constituted one of the first multiracial groups to struggle aggressively against systemic racism in US history.

A state court in Virginia convicted him of treason and insurrection, and the state hanged him on December 2, 1859. Reynolds argues we should revere Brown’s raid and this date as a key milestone in the history of anti-oppression movements. Brown was not the “wild and crazy” man of much historical and textbook writing:

Brown reasonably saw the Appalachians, which stretch deep into the South, as an ideal base for a guerrilla war. He had studied the Maroon rebels of the West Indies, black fugitives who had used mountain camps to battle colonial powers on their islands. His plan was to create panic by arousing fears of a slave rebellion, leading Southerners to view slavery as dangerous and impractical.

We forget today just how extensively revered John Brown was in his day:

Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus, declaring that Brown would “make the gallows as glorious as the cross.” Henry David Thoreau placed Brown above the freedom fighters of the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass said that while he had lived for black people, John Brown had died for them. A later black reformer, W. E. B. Du Bois, called Brown the white American who had “come nearest to touching the real souls of black folk.” . . . . By the time of his hanging, John Brown was so respected in the North that bells tolled in many cities and towns in his honor.

And then there were the Union troops singing his praises for years in the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Brown’s comments to reporters at his trial and hanging suggest how sharp his antiracist commitment was. For example, Brown’s lucid comment on his sentence of death indicates his commitment to racial justice: “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments,—I submit, so let it be done!”

Reynolds notes that Brown was not a perfect hero, but one with “blotches on his record,” yet none of the heroes of this era is without major blotches. Indeed,

Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he shared the era’s racial prejudices, and even after the war started thought that blacks should be shipped out of the country once they were freed. Andrew Jackson was the man of his age, but in addition to being a slaveholder, he has the extra infamy of his callous treatment of Native Americans, for which some hold him guilty of genocide.

Given his brave strike against slavery, Reynolds argues, he should be officially pardoned, first of course by the current governor of Virginia (Kaine). But

A presidential pardon, however, would be more meaningful. Posthumous pardons are by definition symbolic. They’re intended to remove stigma or correct injustice. While the president cannot grant pardons for state crimes, a strong argument can be made for a symbolic exception in Brown’s case. . . . Justice would be served, belatedly, if President Obama and Governor Kaine found a way to pardon a man whose heroic effort to free four million enslaved blacks helped start the war that ended slavery.

Brown did more than lead a raid against slavery. We should remember too that in May 1858, Brown and the great black abolitionist and intellectual Martin R. Delany had already gathered together a group of black and white abolitionists for a revolutionary anti-slavery meeting just outside the United States, in the safer area of Chatham, Canada. Nearly four dozen black and white Americans met and formulated a new Declaration of Independence and Constitution (the first truly freedom-oriented one in North America) to govern what they hoped would be a growing band of armed revolutionaries drawn from the enslaved population; these revolutionaries would fight aggressively as guerillas for an end to the U.S. slavery system and to create a new constitutional system where justice and freedom were truly central. (For more, see Racist America (3rd. ed.)

Today, one needed step in the antiracist cause is for all levels of U.S. education to offer courses that discuss the brave actions of antiracist activists like John Brown and Martin Delany, and those many other, now nameless heroes who marched with them. And how about a major monument in Washington, DC to celebrate them and all the other abolitionist heroes? We have major monuments there to elite white male slaveholders, why not to those men and women of all backgrounds who died in trying to overthrow (246 years of) US slavery?

100 Days of Trump’s Brand of White Supremacy

(Image source)

Today marks the one hundredth day of the Trump administration and his own peculiar brand of white supremacy. There are dozens of 100-day retrospectives around, including some beautifully written ones, but none that I’ve read so far try to connect the threads of white supremacy, white nationalism and Trumpism through these 100 days of outrage. This is my attempt. I’m not exactly sure why I did this in list-icle form, but this post is a kind of note-taking for a longer, narrative piece (a book maybe?) that I’m thinking through now. So. I hope this makes sense and is useful for someone else. And, if not, hey, I’ll use it at some point.

A big tip of the hat to the good work Matt Kiser is doing over at WTFJHT. (I used his chronology of events to pull this 100-item list together, but I confess I only got to Day 38.)

  1. With no political or elected experience, Trump rises to political prominence through a reality TV show and by hectoring the first Black president for his birth certificate, inspiring Charles M. Blow to call him “The Grand Wizard of Birtherism.” 
  2. Trump launches campaign with tirade about “drugs” and “rapists” coming from Mexico, and vows to build border wall along the southern U.S. border.
  3. He loses the popular vote, but wins a majority of white voters (including 53% of white women), and wins via the electoral college. CNN commentator Van Jones call this election a “whitelash.”
  4. Steve Bannon, publisher of Breitbart news, will lead the White House staff.
  5. Bannon said that he built Breitbart as a “platform for the alt-right.” 
  6. Brietbart received at least $10 million dollars in funding from the Mercer Family.
  7. Rebekah Mercer, middle daughter of the wealthy family, has been called the “First Lady of the Alt-Right.” She, and her father Robert Mercer, were among Trump’s biggest financial supporters.
  8. Robert Mercer is one of the principals behind Cambridge Analytica, the secretive psychometrics firm that claims to have helped Trump win the election.
  9. Trump takes office Jan.20, and fumes when photographs show his crowds to be smaller than those for Obama’s inauguration. Sean Spicer disputes these facts by emphatically stating Trump’s crowds were the “largest ever” to witness an inauguration.
  10. Kellyanne Conway defends Spicer’s lies about crowd numbers, saying he offered “alternative facts.” 
  11. Spicer says the White House finds the “negative Trump coverage” from the media “demoralizing.”
  12. In one of their first official acts, the new administration adds a page to the White House website, “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community,” which reads, in part: ““Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.” Many viewed this as a way of putting Black Lives Matter protests on notice.
  13. In the first 34 days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted a total of 1,094 bias incidents around the nation; 37% of them directly referenced either President-elect Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.
  14. A collection of white nationalists claim credit for his election, saying “we memed a president.” 
  15. White nationalists gather in DC to celebrate his election.
  16. Putin’s Russia has emerged as a beacon for nationalists and the American “alt-right”
  17. White nationalists gather in DC to celebrate his inauguration.
  18. U.S.-based white naitonalist Matthew Heimbach calls “Russia is our biggest inspiration.”
  19. “The alt-right reopens questions of Jewish Whiteness.” 
  20. Invited on CNN, white n ationalist Richard Spencer calls into question “if Jews are people.” CNN panel debates. 
  21. As one of his first actions in office, Trump signs an Executive Order immediately banning immigration ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Widely referred to by people in the administration as a “Muslim ban,” it is declared illegal.
  22. Kleptocracy unrestrained and unhidden (travel ban excludes those countries where Trump org has business ties).
  23. US military rents space in Trump Tower, at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $1.5million per year, money that goes into the Trump family’s bank accounts.
  24. Mostly absent from DC and the news media, third-wife Melania Trump, reveals her plan to sign “multi-million dollar” endorsement deals as First Lady.
  25.  The new administration sides with forces that seek environmental destruction for profit at the expense of indigenous people and communities of color, including approving the Keystone Pipeline,  Dakota Access Pipeline,  hobbling the EPA, and scrubbing the EPA website of climate science.
  26. An FBI terrorism taskforce is investigating Standing Rock “water protectors” as terrorists.
  27. The Trump administration tells white nationalists and extremists that it won’t fight them at all, as it shifts all investigations of “extremism” to those committed in the name of Islam. This continues the trend under Obama of ignoring the threat of far-right extremism committed by white (christian) men.
  28. Trump posted a false news story to his Facebook page — that Kuwait had also issued a visa ban on several Muslim-majority countries after his immigration order, which they did not. Still, the post got thousands of shares.
  29. White House declares that negative polls are “fake news.”
  30. WH official: “We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media sees attitude of attacking the president is wrong.” 
  31. Steve Bannon says: “media should keep its mouth shut.”
  32. Trump accuses the “dishonest media” of “covering up terrorist attacks,” an idea he got from Alex Jones, who hosts the right-wing InfoWars. 
  33. Trump falsely claims that the murder rate is at a 47-year high, and accuses the media for not reporting it because “it wasn’t to their advantage to say that.”
  34. In a tweet, Trump calls the media (NYTimes, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN) “the enemy of the people.”
  35. He says critics “pull out the racist card” when they characterize him or his policies as anti-Muslim or anti-black.
  36. “Buy Ivanka’s stuff,” urged Kellyanne Conway on air, after a retailer threatened to pull the first daughter’s clothing line from stores. The “free commercial” was a “clear violation” of ethics rules.  Conway was “briefed” about ethics, twice, by White House counsel.
  37. Steve Bannon moves on to the National Security Council. (And then he’s removed.)
  38. Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old senior advisor to the president is a fierce advocate of “ethno-nationalism,” the racist belief that Europe and America must protect their (white) culture and civilization from outsiders. Miller echoed those talking points on Sunday talk shows, claiming that “millions” of “illegal aliens” voted against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
  39. Michale ‘Decius’ Anton, referred to as “White House Machiavelli,” and “America’s Leading Authoritarian Intellectual,” is an advisor to the president and has a seat on the NSC. Bannon has called him a “leading intellectual in the nationalist movement.”  According to another writer: “Race is integral to Anton’s sense of his own persecution. He sees the enthusiasm for Trump among avowed white supremacists as more reason to support Trump…”
  40. Kellyanne Conway defends the travel ban by citing a non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre,” supposedly carried out by Islamic terrorists.
  41. In a tweet, Trump says  judicial decisions that halted his executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries had allowed a flood of refugees to pour into the country. “Our legal system is broken!” Mr. Trump wrote in a Twitter posting a day after he said that he was considering a wholesale rewriting of the executive order to circumvent legal hurdles quickly but had not ruled out appealing the major defeat he suffered in a federal appeals court on Thursday. “SO DANGEROUS!” the president added.
  42. Disorientation disarms the public, argues Joel Whitebook. “Trumpism as a social-psychological phenomenon has aspects reminiscent of psychosis, in that it entails a systematic — and it seems likely intentional — attack on our relation to reality.”
  43. In a tweet, Trump threatens to cut federal funds to UC-Berkeley after a speech by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulous was disrupted by anti-fascist protestors.
  44. Milo attacked, and encouraged others to attack, actor Leslie Jones via Twitter.  Jones later accused Simon & Schuster of spreading hate by offering him a six-figure book contractive.
  45. An anti-fascist protestor was shot by a Trump supporter outside a venue where Milo was giving a speech.
  46. Milo disappears from public briefly after losing an invitation to CPAC and a lucrative book deal over comments he made about pedophilia.
  47. Milo reemerges a few weeks later, claiming to have $12 million in start up funds for a new media company, Milo Inc. dedicated to:  “making the lives of journalists, professors, politicians, feminists, Black Lives Matter activists, and other professional victims a living hell.”
  48. While there were many comparisons between Trump’s authoritarian white nationalism and the Third Reich during the election, once he takes office, much of this wanes in favor of more sedate analysis like this.
  49. Avowed white nationalists are now blending into the media ecosystem.
  50. Some are warning about a ‘Reichstag fire,’ which allows for seizing control through a call for ‘law and order.’
  51. Trump threatens to send federal troops to Chicago to deal with ‘carnage.’ 
  52. In off-the-cuff remarks at the beginning of Black History Month, Trump mentions abolitionist Frederick Douglass, referring to him as “somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more,” prompting speculation that he doesn’t know who the historical figure is.
  53. During the first week in office for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and still during Black History Month, the “Department of Education sent out a tweet that misspelled W.E.B. DuBois’ name. Then, apologized, but included a typo in the apology. Both tweets have been deleted.
  54. Administrators in a Maryland school that is 93% white, asked teachers to take down “pro-diversity” posters because they are “anti-Trump.” The posters, designed by Shepard Fairey they depict Latina, Muslim and black women, with slogans like “We the people are greater than fear.”
  55. The Anti-Defamation League received a bomb threat.
  56. In a rambling press conference, Trump asks April Ryan, if members of the Congressional Black Caucus “They friends of yours?” and if she will “set up a meeting” between the CBC and the president.
  57. The president, chiding Democrats, refers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, when he says, “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”
  58. The “shock and awe” strategy of a barrage of Executive Orders in the early days of the administration was engineered by Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter.
  59. In attempt to block Jeff Sessions’ nomination to Attorney General, Sen. Elizabeth Warren attempts to read the words of Coretta Scott King’s indictment of Sessions’ racism. The Senate GOP used an obscure rule and voted to silence her. 
  60. Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, asserts that Coretta Scott King “would have changed her mind” about Sessions.
  61. Jeff Sessions, too racist to be a federal judge (1986), is appointed as Attorney General (2017)
  62. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee calls for an exhaustive investigation into Trump-Russia connections following Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor.
  63. Michael Flynn promoted a tweet that read “Not anymore, Jews” and endorsed a racist author who claims “diversity is code for white genocide.” Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke had declared Flynn to be a “great pick!” when he was selected.
  64. Neo-Nazis at Daily Stormer blame “The Jews” for Michael Flynn’s resignation.
  65. White women are core supporters, and leaders, of Trumpism. KellyAnne Conway describes herself as “the face of the Trump Movement.”
  66. And, of course, First Daughter Ivanka Trump does a good deal of work to mitigate father’s fascism, cruelty and white supremacy so that it is more palatable.
  67. According to leaked emails, Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, looked for a way to organize in favor of the travel ban, a case that is very likely to appear before the court. This is a murky ethical terrain, legal experts say.
  68. TIME magazine features Steve Bannon on the cover and asks is he the second most powerful man in the world?
  69. Steve Bannon says, “media should keep its mouth shut”
  70. Again and again, Trump perpetuated the racist myth that “Mexico should pay for the wall.” 
  71. Trump increases ICE raids on immigrants, claiming he is getting rid of “bad hombres,” yet in one study, half have only a traffic violation or no criminal record at all. 
  72. ICE has about 100 “fugitive teams” working on “targeted enforcement actions.” The agency says it has been just as active as during the Obama administration
  73. Fatima Avelica, 14 years old, wept and recorded a video of ICE arresting her father, as he dropped her off for school.
  74. Immigration agents arrest 600 in one week.
  75. Daniel Ramirez, a ‘DREAMer’ who has protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was arrested for allegedly being a gang member, officials said.
  76. ICE detains a woman at a courthouse in Texas where she was seeking a protective order against an abusive boyfriend. “This is really unprecedented,” said one observer.
  77. The organization FAIR, with deep ties to white nationalists, is helping to set immigration policy in Trump’s administration.
  78. DHS documents reveal aggressive new immigration, border enforcement policies.
  79. People lose their jobs after joining “Day without Immigrants” protests.
  80. Trump plans to hire 15,000 new Border Patrol and ICE agents.
  81. The White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism because “others were killed too.”
  82. Trump gives a speech to Congress, speaks in complete sentences, those attending listen and applaud; members of the media praise him as “presidential.” When Obama gave a speech to Congress, an elected official yelled, “you lie!” at him during the speech.
  83. Trump pal Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News for being a serial sexual harasser, but Neo-Nazis are rejoicing over Tucker Carlson’s move to primetime.
  84. Sebastian Gorka, linked to a neo-Nazi group, appointed as ‘terror advisor,’ and has a fake PhD, may be on his way out.
  85. But the anti-immigrant views of Steve Bannon (‘Why even let ’em in?’) continue to guide the policy-making at the White House.
  86. The administration is considering even more EO’s that would block immigration of any “individuals who are likely to become, or have become, a burden on taxpayers.
  87. Steve Bannon reportedly sidelined for referring to Jared Kushner as a ‘cuck’ and a ‘globalist’ (terms used by white nationalists and the ‘alt-right.’)
  88. Not gone for long, Bannon reasserts his influence in the 100-day push to craft some “wins” for a president who has met with repeated defeat.
  89. The first sitting president to visit the gun-rights group in thirty years, Trump tells the NRA he is a “true friend and champion” while the NRA continues to support scientific racism in its rhetoric and in who it sees as its constituency. The ‘right to bear arms’ is perhaps the white-est of rights.
  90. In a tweet, Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping, a federal crime, with no evidence.
  91. The administration settles into a reliable blame game: blaming Obama for everything that goes wrong now, from botched raid in Yemen to hiring Michael Flynn to   the economy to whatever fails next. “I inherited a mess,” Trump claims.
  92. When Obama is not the target, another key strategy seems to be going after Black Women, mostly recently Susan Rice.
  93. Near Atlanta, a 14-year old girl is attacked and her head scarf removed as people yell “Terrorist!” at her. In Austin, someone distributed Easter Eggs with stickers reading, “celebrating in white culture.”  An updating list of ‘Hate in America,” is a new feature at Slate, one of the few media outlets with such a regular feature.
  94. Jeff Sessions orders the Justice Department to review all police reform agreements.
  95.  A 51-year-old white, American man faces first-degree murder charges after shooting two men in an Olathe, Kansas bar, after yelling: “get out of my country” and “terrorist.” The shooter mistakenly believed the men were from Iran. Both of the men who were shot are originally from India and working in the US as engineers.  One died, the other survived. Trump issued no statement on the shootings. 
  96. Jeff Sessions plans to double down on mass incarceration
  97. In a tirade about immigration policies in Europe, Trump made reference to a terrorist attack “last night in Sweden,” but no such attack occurred. He later revealed, in a tweet, that he had heard the story on Fox News.
  98. Trump doubles down on his accusation that refugees in Sweden were behind a rise in crime and terrorism. Swedish officials are bewildered, saying there is no evidence for the claim that migration has driven up crime.
  99. Of course, like so many mediocre white men, Trump is given the luxury of “learning” his job as he does it. And, to almost no one’s surprise, he is displaying “extraordinary ineptitude”
  100. Also in the category of not surprising, and typical of a privileged white man who has had everything given to him: “I thought this [being president] would be easier” Or, was it just that if a Black man had done it, he didn’t think it could be that hard?

I’ll have more to say about all this in narrative form, before too long.  Let me know what I missed! Comments are open (for now).

 

~ Jessie Daniels, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of several books, including White Lies (1997) and Cyber Racism (2009). You can follow her on Twitter at @JessieNYC.

What Disney’s Andi Mack Reveals about Asian Americans

(Image source)

 

Andi Mack, a television show that features three generations of Asian American women, premiered on the Disney Channel earlier this month.  The lead character “Andi” is a thirteen-year-old, mixed-race girl, who lives with her barely-middle-aged grandmother, and—spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first episode—her mother, “Bex”, short for Rebecca, who looks and dresses, as if she could be in her early thirties.

The premiere of Andi Mack is noteworthy because Asian Americans in mainstream American entertainment are so rare. When they do appear, Asian Americans are usually “white-washed,” replaced by white actors or actors of mixed-ethnicity, most recently in ‘Doctor Strange,’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell.  In the few American films where there are Asian American protagonists, like “Better Luck Tomorrow,” “21 and Over,” and “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” Asian American women are veritably absent and silent; they exist to develop men’s characters.

 

It’s been more than twenty years since Margaret Cho critiqued the mainstream interpretation and portrayal of her stand-up comedy, in the first and short-lived Asian American family sitcom “All American Girl” on ABC. Similarly, Eddie Huang questioned the representation of his biography when “Fresh Off the Boat” premiered on ABC in 2015. Although the show has given Constance Wu opportunities to speak about the barriers Asian Americans face in Hollywood, the character she plays has been memorable because of the comedic “tiger mom” stereotypes she portrays.

 

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Andi Mack is Disney Channel’s attempt to rebrand itself, amidst Netflix competition with edgier material. Considering that Asian women are typecast as the “geisha,” the “dragon lady,” or the “tiger mom,” it was refreshing to see that including teenage pregnancy allowed Andi, Bex, and her grandmother to have complex thoughts, emotions, histories, and character development.  However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the tricky topic of teenage pregnancy was allowed particularly because of Andi and Bex’s white, multiracial heritage and through their relationships with white men.

The first episode begins with partial shots of a helmeted driver revving a motorized bike and clattering down a grassy hill to a street corner. The driver stops abruptly in front of two pre-teens, and whips off her helmet in a slow motion tumble of short brown hair and an immediately endearing and unforgettable crooked-tooth grin. Andi proudly shows off her new scooter to her two astonished friends, Buffy and Cyrus. Buffy, looks like a part white, mixed-race girl. She has light brown skin, and thick dark brown hair, with the texture of Rachel Dolezal. Cyrus has light skin and short, straight, dark brown hair but due to his pre-pubescent voice and worried reaction to Andi’s new scooter, he seems as gender ambiguous as Andi herself.

Scholar Rose Weitz writes about how women use their hair to create personal meaning and power in their lives. Weitz argues that women use their hair to resist popular ideals of feminine beauty and to distance themselves from cultural control over their bodies. A lot has been written about how men and women participate in gender policing of women’s bodies. Women cannot be too sexy or too manly. They cannot be too passive or too aggressive.  They should be authoritative but not bitchy. Moreover, women who are not white will be inherently unable to meet standards for white, feminine beauty.

Terri Minsky, the creator of Lizzie McGuire, cast Peyton Elizabeth Lee as protagonist Andi Mack in part because of her crooked smile, her short boyish hair, and her mixed-ethnicity; she looked distinct from the polished children cast in Hollywood. Minsky specifically told Disney she wanted to keep Andi’s hair short. In addition to Andi’s gender ambiguous name, Bex and Jonah Beck, the brown hair and blue-eyed boy Andi has a crush on, both call her “Andiman.” These moments of gender ambiguity make me wonder if Andi’s short hair and gender ambiguous name would have been allowed if she weren’t part white.

“Andi Mack” is not an example of an Asian name that would receive fewer call backs for job interviews. As names go, it’s about as Asian as “Lizzie McGuire.” Between Andi, her mother, and her grandmother, only her grandmother is not mixed-race. In the first episode, Andi compares the parenting style of her white grandfather to his wife, her strict and controlling Asian grandmother. When Andi finds out that Bex is her mother, and all three women become hysterical, her grandfather warmly and firmly reminds his frantic Asian wife, “we knew this day would come” and “they have to make the best of it.” The show’s easy portrayal of Andi’s understanding and agreeable white grandfather reminds me of a familiar strain of American history, where white men bring progressive, modern freedoms to backwards foreigners and especially to culturally oppressed non-white women.

Homecoming Dresses

When Andi finds out that her crush, Jonah, has a girlfriend, she has a fight with Bex and accuses her mother of “barely knowing her.” However, she starts to feel better after Jonah texts her saying that he misses her, even though he also barely knows her. When Andi’s mother tries to build up Andi’s confidence, Andi doesn’t listen but when Jonah tells her the same thing, Andi feels better about herself. We can write this off as young love but that’s the point, for Andi’s grandmother and for Andi, it’s the relationship with a reassuring and authoritative white man that resolves an emotionally unstable Asian or mixed-race woman, when she experiences low self-esteem or when she’s upset with other women in her family.  

A recent New York Times article about the potential for biracial people to heal racial divides suggests that by biologically mixing racial minorities with white people then somehow we will see that everyone is human and deserves equal rights and respect. This assumption hides that race, culture, and biology itself are socially constructed.

(Image from NYT)

But, there is lots of research to show that mixed-race societies still experience racism. Race was created and continues to be used as a way to stratify and control people, according to relations of domination and subordination. I was born and raised in Hawaii, which is wrongly assumed to be a “racial paradise” because a large proportion of the population consists of racial minorities and multiracial families.

Native Hawaiians experience lasting repercussions from colonial relations with U.S. imperialism as other indigenous peoples and Filipinos experience ethnic discrimination and over-representation in blue-collar, low-wage jobs, similar to Mexicans in the mainland U.S.

When I and some colleagues analyzed Filipino college students’ essays in Hawai‘i, we found that Filipino students distanced themselves from a Filipino identity because of families that taught them to prioritize and embrace American culture and because of ethnic and cultural discrimination they experienced in local culture. Language and culture courses helped Filipino students to find pride in their ethnic identity. However, top-down pedagogy left some students feeling alienated by essentializing discourses and boundary-making processes within the Filipino community, especially when the course content did not give students the opportunity to make sense of disparate and changing contexts that Filipino- Americans experience.

Instead of placing our hope in the biology and culture of interracial children of the future, social historians like Emma Teng and Natalia Molina argue for understanding how racial scripts classify and regulate groups of people in the past to demonstrate how we are all connected in the present. Molina reviews how legal cases and immigration policies around Mexican immigrants’ claims to U.S. citizenship have been evaluated by using previous racial and legal knowledge about Asian immigrants and African Americans. We see how quickly Asians lose their “model” status among racial minorities, when they are not submissive or obedient.

Teng reminds readers that people still think about biology, race, and culture in ways where only some hybrid identities are available. Remember how white people are ex-pats but anyone else is an immigrant? We think that Chinese people can assimilate into America, but Americans cannot become Chinese. These ideas about one-way cultural and racial processes affirms the idea of the modern against the old and the idea that people can consent to becoming American but they have to be biologically descended from Chinese people to be Chinese. These assumptions about race, culture, and biology obscure how they are all social constructions responsive to a specific historical and political context.  

I hope Andi Mack does help the Disney Channel rebrand itself by adding to a discussion about race in America and the privilege of white, mixed-race actors in Hollywood.  And, I hope Andi gets to continue to try to figure out who she is, not only in relation to her mother, her friends, and her middle-school crush, but also in relation to her privileged racial identity.

 

~ Kara Takasaki is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.